Friday Commentary: Favourite Easter Memories

April 11, 2014 at 5:54 AM

 Get ready for a weekend of chocolatey fun as Easter approaches!

Easter bunnies

Easter bunnies Photo: Lin Pernille Photography LLC

This time of year (and for months before!), most of us can’t escape the Easter bunny. The hot-cross-bun-clad celebration grows year on year, with just about everything spring-related infiltrating our shop shelves: cutesy animals, cutesier clothes and tons – and tons – of chocolate. At Easter, some go on egg hunts; some on daffodil-draped walks. Most of us stuff our faces with mini eggs, simnel cake and creme egg-flavoured shots (just me then?). What’s your favourite Easter memory? We’ve asked a HomeAway panel to share their own Easter egg-speriences (sorry – I can’t help myself!).

Friday Commentary: Mothering Sunday – do mothers get a good deal?

March 28, 2014 at 4:57 AM

This week’s debate from our panel of experts

time to spoil mum with breakfast in bed

Time to spoil mum with breakfast in bed

This weekend, mums up and down the country will be woken up by excited children, glowing with pride at the home-made gifts they’ve crafted (with a little help from dad), together with a well-deserved breakfast in bed and a hand-made card sparkling in glitter and glue. Well, that was Mother’s Day when I was young; today we’ve moved past the old Mothering Sunday tradition of picking flowers on the way over to see mum, and certainly past the drab bunches of petrol-station flowers I remember. Today, there are many more opportunities to spoil mum, from spa days and short breaks away, to unusual gifts like 3D chocolate selfies (but let’s face it – not many mums will really want to bite their own heads off…).

Throughout our childhood, mums are there for us every day: providing us with a helping hand; picking us up after scraped knees; ever called upon to be our shoulder to cry on. With that in mind, maybe mum should be treated to a day of pampering more than just once per year. Do mothers get a good deal when the family heads off on holiday? Or is mum still stuck in the same routine, just in a different place? As we celebrate the centenary of Mother’s Day, is it enough that it’s just once a year, or do mothers really deserve a holiday too?

This week we rounded up our panel of experts and asked for their thoughts on whether mum gets a good deal, at home and when away.

Friday commentary: Is it fair to fine parents for term-time holidays?

March 21, 2014 at 6:25 AM

The weekly debate from our panel of experts

family holidays fine in term time?

Should family holidays carry a fine in term time?

There has been a lot of debate about the rising cost of family breaks during school holidays. It has been an emotive issue and one which our panel of experts took a look at in our first Friday commentary. We have seen parents take to social media and groups lobbying for government intervention and price regulation, resulting in a parliamentary debate. The travel industry respond by stating it is responding to a simple case of supply and demand, coupled with the summer season being the only time several large operators turn a profit.

Over the last couple of months since this story first came to the fore we have seen a plethora of ideas for how best to deal with the situation be suggested. One idea which seemed to gain traction has been a proposed reduction in air passenger duty during the summer holidays; this has been supported by the airline industry and Michael Gove, the Education secretary. Scrapping the tax in summer could save a family between £52 & £376 on an overseas holiday. A controversial suggestion has been to take the kids out of school for a term-time break, an option which (though once acceptable) has been banned by recent legislation, and now incurs a hefty fine, as Stewart and Natasha Sutherland found out.

Both sides of the argument have responded to this with holiday companies offering to pay parents’ fines and the Department for Education stating that:

“Poor attendance at school can have a hugely damaging effect and children who attend school regularly are nearly four times more likely to achieve five or more good GCSEs than those who are regularly absent. Parents should never simply discount a possible penalty notice from the cost of a cheaper holiday, because this is a criminal offence and when doing so they are always risking prosecution.”

This week we put it to our panel of experts: “Is it fair to fine parents who take their children out of school during term time to save money?”

Friday Commentary: Safe travel

March 14, 2014 at 8:18 AM

Staying safe whilst on the move isn’t always easy


Stay safe and avoid conflict spots around the world

Stay safe and avoid conflict spots around the world

Events in recent months and years have turned once safe and popular holiday destinations, such as Cairo in Egypt, Bangkok in Thailand and Ukraine, into virtual no-go areas. Egypt has seen a decline of 28.9% in January with visitor numbers down to half their 2011 height of 1,147,962. Whilst the recent shutdown of Bangkok during the protests has given tourists pause for thought.

At the same time as people are reconsidering holidays to Egypt and Thailand we have also witnessed the unfolding situation in Ukraine. Last week at the worlds largest tourism fair, ITB in Berlin, Ukraine’s tourist board was trying to make the best of a bad situation with images of the protests in Kiev being used as an image of hope and change, something they believe will inspire some of the 80,000 tourists which visited from the UK in 2013. Elena Ovcharenko, head of public relations and marketing for Kiev’s tourism office spoke to the Sydney Morning Herald and said the following of Kiev: “I think it’s our story at the moment – it’s the sad side of our story but we’re proud that Ukraine has these heroes and people who weren’t scared to defend the interests of their country,”

With HomeAway having rentals in Egypt, Thailand and Ukraine we thought it would be timely to look at how to stay safe when abroad and what to do if the unexpected happens. So we asked our panel of experts their advice on safe travel, and where would they stay away from?

Friday commentary: Would you take a budget flight to the USA?

March 6, 2014 at 9:04 AM
All aboard! Ryanair jets off to the big apple Photo:

All aboard! Ryanair jets off to the big apple Photo:

Budget airlines. Love them or hate them, over the last decade they have enabled millions of us to afford to fly to Europe for a summer getaway. From city breaks to a week by the beach, they transport more of us from the UK than any other carrier; in fact Easyjet is the UK’s largest airline by passenger numbers. Way back in 2000, low-cost carriers accounted for just 8.6% of the market, but by last year that number had risen to 52% of UK airline passengers. Traditionally they have operated from the UK to mainland Europe’s top destinations. Last week Michael O’Leary – Ryanair’s always colourful CEO – made an announcement which could prove as disruptive for transatlantic flights as the budget airlines have been for European travel, with his intention for Ryanair to launch €10 (£8.20) one way flights to New York. Michael O’Leary said “We can make money on 99-cent fares in Europe”. Before going on to say “not every seat will be €10 of course, there will also need to be a very high number of business or premium seats.”

But do we want ‘budget flights’ on long-haul routes? Being cramped in with little leg room on a relatively short hop across to Spain, Italy or Greece is one thing, but how many of us will put up with it for the seven and a half hours to New York? Then there is the price. Michael O’Leary let us know that for €10 we will be paying extra for everything from baggage to printed tickets, meals and drinks. Factor in the ‘hidden’ costs of taxes and how much cheaper will it be? And will it be worth it?

This week we have been running a poll on our Facebook page to ask whether you would consider flying to the USA with a budget carrier. So far we have had a pretty even split, with 53% voting yes and 47% voting no. So the question goes out for you to debate with us, would you fly to the US with a budget carrier?

First we asked our panel for their views on budget airlines, and whether they would choose to fly to the US with a budget carrier, do you agree?